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Whitney Ranch exit gets OK

Rocklin seeks federal money for $25 million interchange project
By: Jon Brines Gold Country News Service
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A new proposed freeway exit on Highway 65 is moving forward despite being unfunded, according to Rocklin officials. “I’m pretty confident we can get funding for the design process,” Rocklin City Manager Carlos Urrutia recently said. The proposed $25-million Whitney Ranch interchange will hook up Whitney Ranch Parkway with Highway 65 just a half-mile north of the Sunset Boulevard interchange and nearly a mile south of Twelve Bridges Drive interchange. The project was established in the city’s general plan and has been in the works for some time. Rocklin Mayor Scott Yuill said not only will the interchange be convenient for Whitney Ranch residents but it is necessary for the expected city growth. Eventually Park Drive will link up with Whitney Parkway and create a major thoroughfare for Rocklin drivers. “We’re at 55,000 (population) now. Ultimately, we’ll have 25,000 more people and they’ll all be out near Whitney Ranch,” Yuill said. Urrutia expects to get the more than $1.7 million in design costs from Whitney Ranch developers, who he said would be willing to invest in the interchange to service their housing communities. The city hopes to get federal funding for the rest. “If we are far enough in the process, the federal government likes to fund shovel-ready projects,” Urrutia said. It could take two to three years before the interchange is constructed, Urrutia said. “We’ll still move forward with this because it takes so long to get funding,” Councilman Brett Storey said. Last week, the council approved the environmental document and draft study report to get the design ready. Roseville resident Neva Schillianskey can’t wait for the exit to be built. She currently travels to the Placer Center for Health on Ranch View Drive, just a block away from the proposed exit, to visit her doctor for a chronic illness. “Having a new freeway exit at Whitney Ranch would be good because it will be a closer trip,” Schillianskey said. She has to pay a taxi to go around Twelve Bridges Drive to get to the office, which adds another five miles to her $28 taxi ride. “As a senior on a fixed income, that’s expensive,” Schillianskey said. Eventually, the Whitney Ranch Parkway interchange will connect to the Placer Parkway, a new freeway slated to extend from Highway 65 to Highway 99 in Sutter County and give Rocklin residents another route to the airport. But according to transportation officials, that plan is even further out than building Rocklin’s interchange. Rocklin resident Linda Carpenter isn’t thinking about the future – she’s concerned about the present lagging recession that could worsen if the city doesn’t hold onto its cash. “That’s such a waste of money right now,” Carpenter said. “It is so close to the other exits. There are so many other things you could use that money for.” The city has been plagued with constant budget cuts and layoffs of city workers in an effort to shore up annual revenue shortfalls. Urrutia is confident the city will not be straddled by the project. “City General Funds will not be used to fund this project,” Urrutia said. “This step will require discussions with the developers regarding cash advances and will also require us to look for other sources of funds.” Yuill said investing in Whitney Ranch with a new freeway exit could help the city’s bottom line by opening an untapped area of commercial development, which would bring in more tax dollars. “The area is designed to be a commercial center and a tax base,” Yuill said. “You can’t have the commercial center without the interchange.”